Melissa Etheridge brings Memphis home to Quebec City

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Photo: Juanita Craig

The audience was delighted to get up close and personal with Melissa Etheridge at her concert at the Parc de la francophonie.

Quebec, Hello! Bonjourrr,” purred the the first lady of Rock ’n’ Roll

Melissa Etheridge, exaggerating the last ‘r’ in the soulful, powerful voice for which she is known at the Festival d’Été’s opening night, July 6.

The 56-year-old vocal powerhouse took to the Loto-Québec stage at the Parc de la francophonie about 9:20 p.m., following the acts of Ria Mae and The Zombies.

Watching Etheridge in concert is like witnessing a blend of Blues and Rock ’n’ Roll take shape on stage. Not only is she a talented multi-instrumentalist, but an enchanting storyteller as well.

“Come with me to Memphis,” invited Etheridge. “It’s where Rock ’n’ Roll all started. I am going to inspire you, that’s my plan. I’m going to make you feel good, to celebrate the diversity that is Quebec City. I did my family tree y’know, and I’m from Quebec! The family name is J-A-N-I-S; we may be related. I’ve got no money though,” she added while chuckling away to herself.

Each song was perfectly woven into the next, with fantastic interactions from Etheridge whose voice remains as intact and memorable as it was in the 1990s. As well as an array of Rock 'n' Roll and Blues songs, the crowd was delighted to hear her classics including “Bring me some water,” “Come to my window” and “I'm the only one.”

Paul McGuigan had flown in from New Zealand specially for the FEQ. After hosting some Quebecers using the Couchsurfing service, one of his Canadian guests invited him here for the FEQ. It helped that his host works for the FEQ. McGuigan told the QCT, “I saw Melissa play in New Zealand back in the ’90s. She opened for the Eagles. She has gotten even better [since then].”

The acts before Etheridge’s show started at 7 p.m. with Halifax native Ria Mae. Considering the attention Mae has been drawing since 2011, she is surprisingly humble, easy going and funny. With a Juno Award for Single of the Year nomination in 2016 and a Sony Music record label under her belt, Mae’s raw voice and the funky Indie-pop feel of her music will certainly ensure that she continues to be noticed.

The English rock band, The Zombies followed Rae’s 30-minute set. At times, the monologue from keyboardist Rod Argent felt like listening to a grandfather reminiscing about his past, and slowed the tempo of the concert down.

Despite this, Argent demonstrated great talent, skimming his hands up and down the keyboard. After Argent’s explanation that, “Most people think that the word [in the song] following ‘Hold your head up’ is ‘wow.’ Well, that’s wrong, it’s ‘woman.’ So, for God’s sake (sing with us and), get the words right.” The tempo picked up again, particularly when they played their hit single “Time of the Season.”

At the end of their set, after Argent declared, “Nous voudrions dire, nous sommes très contente d’être avec vous ce soir,” the band received huge, appreciative applause.

The star of the night also managed a few words en français: “Merci beaucoup mes amis-Quebec, you are so special.” So too, was the Melissa Etheridge Memphis experience.